Trickster on NPR

Eileen Kane was featured on NPR's To the Best of Our Knowledge. Click here for the full programme.

Click here to listen to the Eileen Kane segment.

You are here

The Numu (Paiute) People

The Numu/ Northern Paiute language that Frieda Brown is speaking is part of the Uto-Aztecan language family. Other members of the family include, obviously, Aztec, but the Paiute spoken in Yerington is only distantly related; instead, it is part of the sub-family Northern Uto-Aztecan, and within that, the Numic Western group. Its closest relative is the Mono language.

The correct description of what is spoken in Yerington-Schurz is South Northern Paiute.  (You can look this up on several sites, including

The Sheriff, Claude Keema


For a while during my 1964 fieldwork, a white  youth, Gary Keema, was  mistakenly listed in my census as a member of an eminent Paiute family on the Ranch. In fact, he was the sheriff's son, who spent all his spare time on the Ranch.


The Mason Valley News,  "The Only Newspaper In The World That Gives A Damn About Yerington" began publication in 1909, but Yerington has been served by a series of papers, starting in 1874. In July of that year, the Indians are described as "peaceable and industrious" by two senators, William Stewart and John Jones, who asked that they be placed on small farms rather than reservations. However, in the same month, a local restaurateur, Mrs. Kendall, is commended for hiring "white women" in her restaurant.

Where's the beef?  (In anthropology, this means "Where's the ethnography?" (although some postmodernists would disagree).  Trickster contains ethnographic material, but it's not ethnography. (Click here for my best guess as to what it is.)

The purpose of my 1964 fieldwork among the Paiutes was to learn how to do fieldwork, and to write an ethnographic account of my specific topic, which focused on what religion(s) the Paiutes of Yerington, Nevada, took up after the death of the "Indian Messiah," Jack Wilson or Wovoka.

The "Acknowledgments"  and "References" sections of Trickster: an anthropological memoir contain important references to the history and ethnography of the Numu/Paiutes, as does my 1964 National Science Foundation final report, the one I worried about for almost three months during my training. That report is on this website.

This site will contain excerpts from various works and additional references shortly.




Many of the Paiute people in Trickster: an anthropological memoir, are composites, amalgams of people on the two Yerington Paiute reservations in 1964.

People in the Book: 
Your comments on Trickster, as well as corrections, and additions, are all welcome. Use the contact form to send us your suggestions.

Here's the first one. Nu'maga'a in Yerington sent a message saying

"A very interesting book, a lot of research went into the formal and informal lifestyle of the Numu People. I think the Paiute of Yerington should read the book and have it placed in the tribal library for future reference about the people of the past."

The Numu/Paiute people are invited to provide any memories, photos, or drawings that you'd like to see on this site. Please click on the "Contact Us" tab.


What about the Paiutes of today the Numu, the people I set out to study in 1964?


Do right always. It will give you satisfaction in life. .... The dead are still alive again. I do not know when they will be here; maybe this fall or in the spring. When the time comes, there will be no more sickness and everyone will be young again.


Do not refuse to work for the whites and do not make any trouble with them until you leave them. When the earth shakes [at the coming of the new world], do not be afraid. It will not hurt you.




Share this